Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a scratch golfer and your typical player? We have pulled data on both scratch golfers and 15 handicappers to see what the key differences are, and some similarities that might surprise you!
Off the tee, you may be surprised to know that a scratch golfer is only 3% more likely to hit the fairway than the average golfer, hitting 50% of fairways. The main difference from the tee box is length with scratch players driving the ball almost 50 yards further with driver in hand.
Data suggests that being longer off the tee positively impacts scoring for various reasons. Primarily, it allows players to hit shorter clubs into the green which increases the likelihood of hitting the green, and overall proximity is closer.
This could be why a scratch golfer hits almost 40% more greens in regulation compared to the average golfer. A significant amount especially when we take into consideration the likelihood of getting up and down when missing the green.
Getting up and down to save par is not as easy as we might think.
Scratch golfers are successful 56% of the time and 15 handicappers only 35%. This, combined with GIR%, is a key indicator of where players lose strokes compared to the zero handicapper.
As previously mentioned, the positive impact of being longer off the tee is the benefit it has on second-shot proximity. A scratch player’s proximity to the pin on approach shots is 78ft (26 yards) closer on average than that of a 15 handicapper.
Shot Scope data on approach shots consist of any attempt to hit the green beyond 50 yards excluding tee shots, a large area. However, from 50 yards and in, scratch golfers are typically 7ft closer to the pin, find out more here.
This is significant, when on the green the difference between making a putt from within 7ft versus beyond it is large. The table below highlights this:
We can see that both players are twice as likely to make a putt when within 6ft, this is an area where scratch golfers gain strokes on higher handicappers.
On the greens we can see another issue that prevents the average handicapper from posting lower scores – they do not get the ball to the hole. Nearly 60% of a 15 handicapper’s putts do not make it to the hole. A scratch golfer is the opposite, 57% of their putts miss long.
Missing long is better for multiple reasons. You can see the line of the putt for the return putt and if you miss short then it never had a chance of going in.
Better players make more birdies – or do they?
Well yes. But not as many as you might think! On average a scratch golfer makes 2.4 birdies per round compared to a 15 handicapper’s 0.4 birdies. So yes, they do make more birdies but this is not where the significant difference in scoring is found.
It is when we look at double bogeys that we see a large difference in scoring. Scratch golfers typically make 0.9 doubles per round compared to the average golfer who has 3.7 per round.
So it is not the case that scratch players make an enormous amount of birdies, but rather they avoid making costly double bogeys. What does this mean for the average golfer? Rather than hunting for birdies and playing overly aggressive, try to avoid costly mistakes and prevent running up big scores.
Taking advantage on scoring holes
On the course, scratch golfers can take advantage of Par 5s and consistently make birdies on these holes. Par 5 scoring average for a scratch golfer is 4.76 compared to a 15 handicapper who scores 5.91 typically.
This is likely due to a number of reasons, some of which have been mentioned above. Length off the tee, GIR, proximity to the hole, and putting. The collection of these finer details combines to make for scoring opportunities.
It is this collection of finer details that creates the overall bigger picture, this is the underlying foundation of strokes gained. Small margins over the course of a round, tournament, or season equates to a large gain with time.
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